Tutoring is a growing profession and one that seems to demand fewer specific qualifications than classroom teaching. As a result, it draws people from a range of backgrounds, but who should really consider becoming a tutor? What are the barriers to entering the profession? And what is the reality of the day-to-day role?
Scott Woodley, Co-Founder of Tutorful, answers some frequently asked questions on what it takes to become a top class tutor and who should apply for the role.
If you have a passion for a particular subject and the expertise to match, tutoring is a great profession to move into. Whether you are looking for a new career or just a few extra hours alongside another post, tutoring is an immensely rewarding job; it lets you help others whilst earning a great hourly rate.
The best tutors are those who love learning and are enthusiastic, engaging people. We can all remember those teachers who inspired us at school, and, for me, the best teachers were those who genuinely loved their subject. It’s infectious when someone speaks passionately about a subject and that’s what we look for in our tutors: someone who can communicate a deep-rooted personal interest and, of course, has the knowledge base to go alongside it.
At Tutorful, we only accept applicants who are in at least the second year of their degrees, have good experience of working in their chosen field or have built substantial subject knowledge in a particular field. This sounds pretty broad, because it is.
No. Tuition is very different to teaching in a classroom setting. Having trained and worked as a Primary School Teacher myself, I know that teaching is a tough profession and demands an incredible amount of specialised skills to be able to help 30 children at a time. Of course, tutors need to be up-to-date with the current curriculum, understand how to plan sessions and cater for different learners, but tutoring demands softer skills. Equally, if you are an effective teacher, you have a better chance of becoming an effective tutor.
You will need to have all the qualities of a good teacher. Tutors need to be professional, organised and, above all, personable and friendly. Tutoring is about building a trusting relationship, getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of your tutees and planning learning to meet these needs. Whilst a background in teaching helps, it’s certainly not essential. In fact, we often find that students who are struggling in school can prefer a non-qualified tutor who may take a slightly different approach to explaining difficult concepts. As long as you have the right skills and knowledge base, it’s fine.
Many of our tutors are final year, Masters or PhD students, who have outstanding academic backgrounds but are currently unable to secure high-income roles. These are individuals who have incredibly high levels of subject knowledge and have witnessed first-hand teaching techniques, for the last 15 years. Instead of working in low wage, poor hours jobs, we give them the chance to earn well and use the skills they have built.
We also have many tutors who have retired from professional roles within industries such as engineering, editing, accounting and so forth, which demand high levels of academic proficiency. Others from these occupations, who are now working on a part-time basis, have also joined our team and many of these make for exceptional tutors.
So, if someone, not already teaching, is reading this and wanted to become a tutor, what would they need to do to get started?
First, they would need to think honestly about the subjects and levels they wish to teach. It is always better to specialise in one or two subjects and hone your practise for levels at which you are confident. My top tip for making this decision would be to look at the curriculum for the level and subject you wish to teach and sit the most recent past paper yourself. If you fly through the test and feel confident with the concepts, and how to explain them, then you know it would be a good fit for you, and know you have the qualities of a good teacher.
With ourselves, Tutors who are currently still studying themselves are only allowed to tutor to a level below that which they have achieved themselves, i.e. if they are studying their degrees, they can only tutor up to A Levels. Often they make for very empathetic and understanding tutors, as they have relatively recently moved through these exams themselves. It’s important to say, however, that the curriculum is evolving and changing at such a pace that even these tutors must take a good look at the latest exam requirements before they set themselves up as a tutor.
Enjoy it and get to know each student as an individual.
If you are setting out to make money and be incredibly professional and organised, but forget to enjoy it, it won’t work. Tutoring is about the relationship you build with someone, whether that is a year one pupil or an adult learner, whether you are teaching the violin, or algebra.
Yes, prepare. Yes, be organised. But, above all else, enjoy it. If you turn up to your sessions with a friendly smile and talk enthusiastically, your students will warm to you, the subject and your sessions. If you achieve this, then that enthusiasm will go a long way to achieving the results they are hoping for, and gain even more qualities of a good teacher.
Getting to know your student is the other key. Don’t see tutoring as teaching in the same way that you experienced being taught at school - it’s very different. When tutoring, you have the time to find out all about the learner in front of you, their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and their learning style. Once you know these things, you can plan sessions based on the things they like, which tackle the areas they struggle in and include activities tailored to how they learn.
Scott Woodley, Co-founder of Tutorful.
Scott is a fully qualified primary school teacher who left teaching to set up Tutorful, a site which helps parents and learners find the right tutor for them.
If you are looking to become a tutor, you can easily create a profile with Tutorful. You can set your own price, offer online or face-to-face tuition and begin building your rewarding career in no time.